From Milliken to fashion mania: Top lines of Whitmer’s 2nd State of the State

By: - January 30, 2020 7:34 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist at the State of the State address, Jan. 29, 2020 | Andrew Roth

After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first State of the State address last year, FOX-2 decided to play fashion critic — and national media, including journalists at the Washington Post and CNN — weren’t having it.

The metro Detroit TV station ran a story with anonymous commenters critiquing Whitmer’s blue dress and body, something the governor appeared to reference at the top of her second speech Wednesday night.

“I must say, everyone is looking fantastic tonight,” Whitmer declared. “But this year, I want to get one thing straight: This is not the red carpet. Please, I urge you, focus on the substance of my speech. It’s about issues, not appearances.”

And then, likely because many — including this reporter — have pointed out that men in power rarely face scrutiny over their wardrobes, Whitmer referenced state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), quipping, “I don’t care how distracting Sen. Shirkey’s outfit is — cut him a break.”

Here are a few other memorable lines in the governor’s address:

Remembering Milliken

Republican former Gov. William Milliken died in October at the age 97, who was one of the last of the old guard of Michigan moderate Republicans. He left a legacy of environmental protection.

Whitmer has talked several times about growing up with her mother, Sherry, working for Democratic then-Attorney General Frank Kelley and her father, Richard, serving under Milliken.

“There is another person who isn’t with us but who is here in spirit: Gov. Bill Milliken,” Whitmer said Wednesday. “He didn’t just leave a legacy. He lived a legacy. The reason is simple: Gov. Milliken brought people together. He was a ‘passionate moderate’ — back when that wasn’t an oxymoron. He knew the real enemy wasn’t on the other side of the aisle. The real enemy was doing nothing.”

Honoring diversity

Whitmer also took time to highlight some of her efforts to reach marginalized groups and provide more representation in government.

“It’s been a year of firsts,” she said. “We created and named the first Clean Water Public Advocate and created the Environmental Justice Advisory Council. The first pride flag flew over the governor’s residence and the Romney building. I also hosted the first Diwali celebration and Ramadan dinner at the residence. These firsts honor the beautiful diversity that is Michigan.”

Calling out harassment

Whitmer called attention to workplace harassment and vitriol online, as the Advance first reported she would after a Tuesday interview with her. She also has written a letter to Facebook about clamping down on violent groups online.

That comes after Advance reporter Allison Donahue wrote a first-person story about sexist comments state Sen. Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.) made during interviews with him, followed by two other women — state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) and Melissa Osborn, who works for a business trade group — came forward with their own stories of Lucido’s alleged sexual harassment.

Whitmer did not mention Lucido by name, something some Republicans were nervous she would do.

“Unfortunately, we’ve also seen an uptick in hateful, harmful language in Michigan and across the country,” Whitmer said in her address. “A lot of it starts in Washington, D.C., and now it feels like it’s working its way to Lansing. Whether it’s misogyny in the workplace or threats of violence online, this is unacceptable.

“Let’s debate. Let’s disagree. But then let’s all live up to our responsibility to stand up to hate and harassment. Remember, our children are watching. In Michigan, diversity is our strength. Doing is our strength.”

‘Not here to play games’

Whitmer made the case she popped “Plan A” last year with her Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal and much of it, from her roads plan to school funding hike, was rejected by the GOP-led Legislature.

On Wednesday, she laid down a marker, which didn’t really go down well with some Republicans, as the Advance reported.

“I am not here to play games,” Whitmer declared. “That’s why it’s time for Plan B. For those of you who want to keep playing games, I’m going to press on without you. I’m going to use the power of my office to do what I said I was going to do.

“Because for me … for Michigan … impatience is a virtue. No more waiting around to fix our roads. Or improve our schools. Or strengthen our families. The people of Michigan are counting on us. It’s time to act.”

Fun with puns

The governor wasn’t afraid to let a couple of puns slip into the address, like when she said, “Tonight’s speech will be shorter than usual. Believe me, the people of Michigan don’t want more ceremony, they want con-crete action. And sometimes, they just want concrete.”

Focus on her family

The governor acknowledged her family at the beginning, as is custom. Toward the end of her speech, Whitmer, whose daughters are both in high school, noted that time is of the essence to make progress on priorities.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s family: Husband Dr. Mark Mallory and daughters Sydney and Sherry | Casey Hull

“In 2020, in Michigan, we can afford to be a little impatient. We need to be a little impatient,” she said. “In the blink of an eye, my daughters will be off to college and then joining the workforce.”

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.